CBS News has ordered “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan and her producer to take an unspecified leave of absence in the wake of an internal review that found numerous flaws in their reporting of a story about the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Logan’s Oct. 27 story on “60 Minutes” relied on the account of a British security contractor named Dylan Davies, who said he was an eyewitness to the attack. In fact, Davies — who was promoting a book about the episode published by a CBS subsidiary — was nowhere near the American facility on the night of the attack.
Following an internal review, Al Ortiz, executive director of standards and practices at CBS News, wrote that the “60 Minutes” story was “deficient in several respects.” Ortiz concluded that Logan and producer Max McClellan “did not sufficiently vet Davies’ account” of his actions on the night of the attack.
In the wake of Ortiz’s report, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager said he asked Logan and producer McClellan to take a leave of absence from the network. Both have agreed, Fager wrote in an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.
Among Ortiz’s findings, also contained in an internal memo obtained Tuesday:
●Logan’s report aired without “60 Minutes” knowing about statements Davies made about his whereabouts on the night of the attack to the FBI and State Department investigators. Davies told the investigators that he had not witnessed the attack, contrary to what Logan reported.
●Davies’s statements to the FBI and the State Department “were knowable” before the story aired. “But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account,” Ortiz wrote. “It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.”
●The fact that Davies had lied to his employer, Blue Mountain Group, about where he was on the night of the attack “should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process.”
●Logan’s assertions that al-Qaeda operatives had carried out the attacks and controlled the hospital where J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was taken “were not adequately attributed in her report.”
●“60 Minutes” erred in not disclosing on the air that Davies’s book, “The Embassy House,” was published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corp. The book has been withdrawn from circulation.
●It was “a conflict” for Logan to make a speech in October 2012 in which she argued that the United States was playing down the threat from al-Qaeda and urged military action to avenge the Benghazi attack.
The “60 Minutes” story began to unravel after The Washington Post reported on Oct. 31 about the existence of an “incident report” that Davies had written for Blue Mountain in which Davies acknowledged that he spent most of the night at his beachside villa. It fell apart altogether when the New York Times revealed Nov. 7 that Davis had admitted as much to the FBI in an interview.
After defending the story for nearly two weeks, CBS and Logan retracted it and apologized on Nov. 8.
In his memo, Fager wrote, “There is a lot to learn from this mistake for the entire organization. We have rebuilt CBS News in a way that has dramatically improved our reporting abilities. Ironically, ‘60 Minutes,’ which has been a model for those changes, fell short by broadcasting a now discredited account of an important story, and did not take full advantage of the reporting abilities of CBS News that might have prevented it from happening.”